Since Liam Neeson and TAKEN, a whole new sub-genre of ageing action flicks have popped up, taking over-the-hill actors and (despite their creaking joints) having them kick butt.
While Neeson has arguably held dominion over this new brand of action flick (I’m not complaining; I love a bit of Neeson!), Sean Penn has recently joined the fray….and I’ll be honest; he packs more of a punch!
THE GUNMAN tells of ex-mercenary assassin Jim Terrier (Sean Penn) whose past comes back to bite him when a hit squad is ordered to take him down to clear the records surrounding Terrier’s contracted killing of the Minister for Mining in the Congo eight years earlier. Despite being out of the game, and suffering from an ever-worsening illness, Terrier has to dust off the old killer skillset and get back on the tough guy horse.
One of the first things you’ll notice in this flick is that Sean Penn has an amazing six-pack. In fact, it’s rather distracting! I’m talking chiseled abs and perfect pecs.
Kudos to Sean Penn; he may be looking decidedly wrinkly (particularly next to fresh faced 34-year-old Jasmine Trinca who plays his love interest) but he certainly looks the part of action hero. Expect to see a lot of his rocking body, as the filmmakers have him shirtless at every opportunity.
It’s good that there’s some eye candy on offer as, visually, this film is pretty stock standard. Despite the potential of the exotic and interesting story locations (namely The Congo and Spain) set pieces are generic, and the cinematography pretty unimaginative. It’s not poor, but it’s far from great.
While littered with some laughably weak extras/minor leads, the film packs impressive star power where it counts (eg. Penn, Javier Bardem and Ray Winstone) and the talented cast do their best to carry the more dramatic elements of the film. It seems the writing team have tried to create a serious action flick, criticizing Western exploitation of developing nations, and focusing on the relationships of their hero as well as his ability to kick ass.
I’m all for added depth in the action genre but, as they haven’t removed the usual over the top absurdity you’d expect from a mainstream action flick, it doesn’t quite have the effect I imagine they intended. The result is a slightly inconsistent feeling film: I constantly found myself wondering ‘how seriously am I supposed to take this?!’
Despite this, THE GUNMAN is a fun and intriguing film. The fight scenes had the audience flinching and groaning (in a good way!) and the plot kept me well and truly engaged. I was unashamedly entertained from “go to whoa”.
I’m surprised to see a stack of negative press surrounding this flick: It’s not nearly as weak as some of Liam Neeson’s latest efforts (sorry Liam! I still love you!) yet it seems critics and audiences just aren’t up for welcoming Penn to the likeable aging action hero club. Shame: He looks the part.
If you enjoy the action/thriller genre, THE GUNMAN is a solid offering. No more ridiculous or generic than the countless other mainstream action films churned out every year, it doesn’t quite deserve the bad wrap it’s getting. I rate it 6 stars.